For as far back as one could remember, we have been informed that Pakistanis have a difficult relationship with the basic idea of their country. We are told that the country is divided over the purpose of why their country even came into existence. For one set of people, Pakistan was established to implement the idea of a state governed by Islamic laws. For many scholars of Islam, Pakistan is the only example in world history where Islam and Sharia were to form the constitutional foundations of the polity. But many disagree with this kind of purpose assigned to the ‘Land of the Pure.’ They believe that most countries must grow out of the original idea and evolve to meet the demands of modernity. They often quote the famous speech by Jinnah in which he gave a ‘secular turn’ to the newly created state. In this speech, Jinnah asked followers of different religions to freely partake in their ideologies of worship, promising them the safe custody of the Pakistani state. The tussle between those two ideas has still not ended: the clash between the two ideologies still haunts the nation. Compared to this, India appeared to be free of this problem… Until yesterday. Changing paradigm in India In India, the basic idea of nationhood seemed to have been settled the day Pandit Nehru gave his famous ‘tryst with destiny’ speech. While voices disagreed with the Nehruvian vision, on the fundamental drive of sovereign nationhood, there was no major controversy. The talking point of the secular-left-liberal constituency in India was the fragile foundation of the idea of Pakistan, and the stable democracy which was taking India forward irrespective of its ‘violent edges.’ Any communal clash, whether it was the Sikh pogroms in Delhi after Indira Gandhi’s assassination, or the Gujarat riots -no matter how horrible in nature — was ‘accepted as an aberration’ in a country as big as India. The innate spirit of Indians was still tolerant of all points of view. The essence of Hinduism was inclusive; over centuries it accommodated the cultures that arrived in India. Problems of exclusivity, confusion over national direction, and the issue of confusion over the “original idea”, always belonged to the “other” country. India, as a modern secular democracy, was free of that national confusion. India was a palimpsest, and secularism was a given norm. That was the dominant path; until, of course, the ironical ache din arrived on the political horizon of the largest democracy on earth. Mirror Image of the Other How the ache din phrase is gradually turning on its head, is indeed proverbial. With a meaning inverse of its literal, it won’t be a surprise if ache din Syndrome comes into shape. The new government in Delhi promised good days for the nation. However, these promised “good days” have compelled the nation to into a state of mind where the country’s collective existence has become a large question mark. The debate is no more about whether good days have — or will — come for the country or not. Today, India is asking whether it was made for secularism, or for a theocratic state; whether India is going to manifest cultural nationalism, or constitutional nationalism. As Nehru pales into the shadows and Patel rises from relative oblivion; as Gandhi’s statues are clouded with a new doubt and Godse is rising from the dead; India is fast becoming a mirror image of Pakistan. Countries that get caught up in internal battles waste precious time that can otherwise be used to alleviate suffering of the masses. Countries where innocent children die due to lack of oxygen must have better responsibilities than quarrelling over grandiose philosophical ideas of nationhood The new Moditva nationalism is challenging every public intellectual and institution to its litmus test of nationalism and the very idea of India. This Moditva nationalism has a different set of heroes and villains. Golwalkar’s Bunch of Thoughts is perhaps more important than what has been put in the constitution. The sanctity of the national flag is now in question. The current wave of nationalism- which bears the visible threat of violence- has exposed the underbelly of India where even the judiciary appears tainted. The old concept of India is being lynched in favour of a new one which has created sharp boundaries of different hues. Worse, many of those in the secular camp are meekly crossing the border into the saffron camp, claiming that they were actually the “pseudo-secular’s” which Moditva followers accusing their opponents of being. Way Forward There will be no way forward for India if it becomes the mirror image of the ‘other’. Countries which get caught up in internal battles waste precious time which could be used to alleviate the suffering of the masses. Countries where innocent children die due to lack of oxygen must have better responsibilities than quarrelling over grandiose philosophical ideas of nationhood. Winning ideological battles is pyrrhic if not accompanied by a seriousness in poverty alleviation, healthcare improvement, access to education, and much more. As India descends into a battle of definitions, the future seems anything but heart-warming; and it is going to get worse with the fanged cultural nationalism clawing its way with money and muscle across India. The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Published in Daily Times, August 25th 2017.